Faction-ridden SP holds key meet ahead of polls

Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal also present at the meeting

The Samajwadi Party Parliamentary Board, the highest decision making body of the faction-ridden ruling party, met here on Sunday under the presidentship of party supremo Mulayam Singh to discuss a gamut of issues ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle and State party chief Shivpal Yadav were also present at the meeting.

Though there was no official word on the deliberations, party insiders said that appointment of a new leader of the SP in the Rajya Sabha was on the agenda after incumbent Ram Gopal Yadav was expelled from the party.

Mr. Mulayam has to take a call on the issue before the winter session of Parliament commences on November 16.

CM favours Naresh

The SP has 19 members in the Rajya Sabha and five in the Lok Sabha.

Party sources said while Mr. Mulayam was in favour of his old socialist friend Beni Prasad Verma as party’s new leader in the Upper House of Parliament, Mr. Akhilesh was batting for Naresh Agarwal.

Reoti Raman Singh is senior-most SP representative in the Rajya Sabha, but his failing health may make Mr. Mulayam go for Mr. Verma, a veteran who had left the party a decade ago following differences with the SP supremo, only to return to the party fold earlier this year. He was soon sent to the Rajya Sabha.

Mr. Akhilesh, the sources said, favoured Mr. Agarwal as he has been a prominent speaker on behalf of the party in the Upper House where he was seen as the number two after Mr. Ram Gopal.

Amar Singh, who was also sent to the Rajya Sabha by Mr. Mulayam recently, is not comfortable with Mr. Agarwal due to his proximity with Mr. Ram Gopal.

Mr. Agarwal, who had been in the Congress and Loktantrik Congress Party before he joined the SP, favoured declaring Mr. Akhilesh as the chief ministerial candidate during the public feud in the Yadav clan.

Sources said there was a vacancy in the Parliamentary Board after Mr. Ram Gopal’s exit and there was speculation that Surendra Mohan Agarwal could fill the slot.

This is the first crucial meeting of the top leadership of the ruling party after Mr. Mulayam’s recent announcement to go solo in the UP Assembly polls.

Mr. Mulayam has ruled out any alliance though he said he would welcome merger of outfits with his party.

Sources also said the meeting had been convened to discuss the preparations of the ruling party for the Assembly elections just a few months away. - PTI

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